I reluctantly joined my friends to see The Lego Movie in New York City a few days ago, assuming it would be the equivalent of watching the Lego battles my little brother used to have with his friends. By the time it ended, I not only wanted to see it again to examine any subtle nuances I missed, but I was also grappling with several central questions of human existence -- mainly, how I, one human being in this world of millions, can contribute something important.
This is not just a movie for children who want to watch a bunch of plastic toys battle for their universe. Of course, it contains all of the great components of a children's film: adventure, catchy music and amazing visual effects -- every single inch of the Lego world, down to the roaring ocean, has been manipulated to appear Lego-fied. Everything about this new world makes us feel like we have been skyrocketed into a child's imagination.
But beyond all of that, this movie contains intelligent intrigue and sophisticated humor, the kind that will leave you laughing out loud because it so wittily points out universal truths. The story becomes a quest for individuality in a world of conformity, and I would go so far as to say it becomes an allegory for communism versus democracy. It opens on a world full of ignorant Lego people who wake up every day with a rulebook on how to live their lives. Most of them are ignorant to the point where they don't realize they are being oppressed and have been manipulated into believing they are happy.
Each Lego person has the same favorite song and television show and are convinced by their evil ruler, President Business, that order, uniformity and repetitiveness is the key to success. Innovation is against nature in the world of President Business. The citizens live blissfully unaware of other Lego worlds beyond their own city limits, and they do not realize that, beneath their propagandized desire to sing "everything is awesome" for five hours while they work, they each possess repressed individual qualities.
The main character, Emmet, has the least individuality of anyone. His co-workers express that each of them has something specific about themselves, such as liking chicken, whereas Emmet has never once expressed something about himself that makes him unique. When he discovers that he is "The Special," and is destined to fulfill a prophecy that we learn is ultimately made-up, the story becomes about Emmet's discovery that he truly does have unique qualities. The fact that the prophecy is fake serves to show Emmet that he had this "specialness" inside him all along, that everybody has specialness inside them and that each person's unique ideas bring greater contributions to society as a whole than does the standardization of human existence purported by a communist society. Only when each Lego brings his own creations to the table are the people able to rise up against their oppressive regime and find true happiness.
From a child's perspective, this movie is about creativity. It is about allowing your imagination to run free and allowing order to sometimes descend into chaos because that is how great discoveries are made. But from a broader perspective, this is an Orwellian movie about rising up against big brother.
This movie has a remarkable amount of layers and sophistication, and it presents these layers to its audiences in an exceedingly entertaining way -- through a hilarious cast of characters that include Lego Batman, Dumbledore, Gandalf and a heroine named Wyldstyle.
No matter how you feel about Legos, this movie will not only leave you laughing over and over again, but it will take you on a journey with exciting twists and turns along the way. Even more, it will make you think.
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